How to add an External USB hard drive to the PS3

If you have amassed plenty of videos, music and pictures on your computer over the years then why not stick it all on an external hard drive and hook it up to your PS3. Easier, and much quicker, than streaming files over your home network this is an ideal solution for users with massive hard drive needs.

With the advances in the PS3 software, many video types can now be played and nearly all music and picture formats are also available.

So what do you need?

A nice big external hard drive (in theory any size up to around 2000 Gb is possible) although most people will opt for something between 250 and 500 Gb.

Let’s sort it out!

Seagate Hard Drive for PS3The perfect external HD for the PS3 is the fantastic 500Gb Seagate.
It has a sleek black outer casing, and a super fast 7200 rpm drive for quick file access.
(Available for only £79.99)
Or 750Gb for £89.99

Next up we need to format your drive so that the PS3 will recognise it. We need to format the hard drive to utilise the FAT32 file system. First problem is that we can’t do this using the normal Windows format facility. Windows can only format FAT32 drives up to 32Gb.

You will need to download a program such as Swissknife (Download from here). This is a free download and can format your massive external hard drive in the FAT32 file system.

When you have formatted your external drive you will need to create 4 folders so that the PS3 can recognise where you put your files.

Name these four folders:


You can then fill these folders with your pictures, videos and music – make sure you put the files in the right folder and then after you have disconnected the drive from your PC it’s time to hook it up to your PS3.


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95 Responses

  1. Andrew Wilson says:

    i already have a external hardrive with lots of songs and movies if i do this methoud will the information be lost

  2. PS3Boy says:

    Andrew, if you’re external HD is not FAT32 then unfortunately you will have to format it which will indeed result in the loss of your data. You could transfer your files from your external HD temporarily to either your PC and/or burn them on to re-writable DVD’s before you format the external HD.

  3. rub says:

    i got a Philips 500gb hdd from argos for £80 i think or less so i can format this too FAT32 and have all 500gb or do i have to split it?

  4. rub says:

    Swissknife dosen’t work on vista for me any one having this too?

  5. Bow E3 guy says:

    i have an external 40gb drive but windows does not let me format it as FAT32. It is a very old drive, could this be the reason? is there any way 2 get this old drive to FAT32 format, because it would really help me transfer things from pc to ps3

  6. PS3 John says:

    Swissknife works for me on Windows Vista. Please make sure you downloaded the latest version.

  7. Mat says:

    Could you use a portable external HDD? i.e. one which is powered by the PS3 via USB. Would this have any negative effects on the console?

  8. Prasheel says:

    Does the PS3 recognize more than on partition on the USB Ext HDD. Im having trouble seeing the files on the second partition.

  9. Serge says:

    I just did it. Iomega external 2.5″HD 250G FAT32 default firmated from the fabric. Everything works greate like described. But twow buts:
    1)create PICTURE instead of PHOTO.
    2)PS3 does recognize only one DIRectory down the topic tree.
    E.g. Music\Artist\….mp3 is OK
    but Music\Artist\Album\…mp3 NOT
    so to split a albums you have to do something like this Music\Artist_Album1\…mp3

  10. PS3 John says:


    Are you sure you are clicking ‘display all’ to see multiple trees?

  11. zackepoo says:

    i am attempting this with a drive from a laptop in which i bought a portable case for. it was already a fat32 and ps3 would not recognize it with single usb and/or the power usb plugged in. but i’ll let you all know what happens after this.

  12. mikey1923 says:

    i have 2.5 60 gigs i took out of the ps3 and put in a 320 the 320 no pro in the ps3. but the 60 i put in the 2.5 drive did fat32 useing swissknife and put the folders in. when to ps3 , didn’t see it so i got a power cord and try that too, because i though that usb was not powerful to do .so what can i do next ? or will it work better on a 3.5 then a 2.5 . because most online help use 3.5 not 2.5. thanks man….

  13. moneyshot says:


    I couldn’t get swissknife to work for me, but this only took a matter of minutes and did the job perfectly.

  14. billy says:

    ive done all of this already but its only letting me partition 196GB of the 750GB i have available, if anyone knows how i can do this to use the full 750GB please please! email me on

  15. Paul says:

    the problem with this is that the file size limit of fat 32 is 4GB – so you cant copy big video files over!

    I think using EXT as a partition type may work though.

  16. daniel says:

    will it play back blue ray files

  17. Tino says:

    does anyone know if an external drive will be able to store files saved using the new ‘Play TV’ add on for PS3? In other words you could end up with a HDD TV box cable of storing up to 2TB! thats alot of TV!

  18. big-tel says:

    FAT32 don’t show-up on swissknife….only NTFS & FAT16???
    what am I doin wrong!!

  19. dan wilson says:

    will you be able to save game data on the external hardrive not save data GAME DATA??

  20. Max says:

    Right guys….this is it..get your self a western digital(WD) external drives, they come aready with FAT32 format, as simple as that no hussle!

  21. cdkingy says:

    i got the 500Gb Seagate shown as i thought it would be easier to format and get working quickly but when eever i try and format it using the above free download it keeps coming up that there is a read/write error. can someone please tell me where im going wrong????

  22. Sander says:

    The REAL problem with that is that FAT32 is a very old file system, and can only store files up to 4GB in size.

    Cannot believe PS3 does not recognize my NTFS 320GB Western Digital. Damn Sony. Why choosing an old format…

  23. Jools says:

    Can’t understand why you lot are using external programs to format the hard drive in Fat32. Format in windows does it !!!! Doh !!!

  24. Glenn says:

    Because, Jools, in Windows you are limited to a drive size of 32GB. Doh!

  25. wd40 says:

    Jools – Windows can only format FAT32 drives up to 32Gb.

  26. PS3 Max says:

    NTFS is owned by Microsoft and that means there will be licensing issues if used by other vendors. That is why Linux does not support NTFS. FAT32 can be used freely.

  27. King says:

    I read somewhere that this has to be a SATA drive and not IDE. Can anyone confirm please.

  28. Savas says:

    I have a question:

    1. When you formated the HDD, can you transfer a file from windows PS bigger than 4 gig to the external HDD?

    2. Lets say you managed to transfer 8 gig file (hd movie for ps3), can you play a hd movie of 8 gig on the ps3?

  29. Tyzlor says:

    Jools – Windows will only Format 32GB FAT32.

  30. JamesAC says:

    Can you not just use the PS3 to format the external Hard drive? It does it for The 8GB memory Sticks!

  31. roy says:

    how to play hd video files on my ps3 i have formatet my drive to fat 32 but can’t put mij 7.5GB files on it because it only accepts a max of 4 gb. how do i have to do it?
    best regards

  32. Steve says:

    I formatted a 1TB external hard drive using SwissKnife however I was left with only 429GB after the formatting, how do I get the full 1TB to format?

  33. steve says:

    the same problem happened to me, can anyone tell us if it is possible to get the full storage space back?

  34. Alie says:

    did all the format stuff, it works, but can u save game data utility on external hdd? if not can u make the ehdd the primary drive rather than as an attachment

  35. Asif says:

    I had the same problem as you.
    I had a 650Gb drive with large HD videos in NTFS format but PS3 didn’t recognise it.
    I used Swisknife but the largest partition it would create was 100Gb so Like you I had lost 550Gb.
    The only way I recovered it was plugging it into my laptop Windows XP and using the ‘Manage’ option on the ‘My Computer’ icon.
    Once it launches the new panel select ‘Disc Management’ – this will show all the space on your portable Hard drive, including the lost space as ‘Free Space’. Then you have to format this free space as NTFS to get it back.
    Unfortunately this NTFS partition won’t be recognised by your PS3.
    To play my large HD files I have to reformat them to under 4Gb.
    The space is filling up & I know have to decide what to do with the NTFS parition – divide it into further 100Gb FAT32 or try something else.
    Any ideas anyone?

  36. Jacob says:


  37. dazirl says:

    Formatting in the FAT format stores data in different size chunks/blocks(clusters) than the windows NTFS format. Windows NTFS is far more efficient as it can use a large array of cluster size. FAT doesnt have the same flexibility as NTFS, hence why you are losing some HD space.

  38. shaun says:

    i had same problem i formatted 640gb to fat32 and left with 94gb if anyone knows how to fix this email me at

  39. sat says:

    I had the same problem. I was able to do the format with the partition magic trial version. Using partition magic, I was able to delete the existing NTFS partition, and create a FAT32 partition. I did loose the data in the process.

  40. ken says:

    me too. it says it can format a 2 tb partition, but my 1 tb external drive is only showing 429 gb.


  41. rod says:

    why not just share media between you pc and the ps3. My ps3 sees all the shared video files from my computer.

  42. rahul says:

    i have formatet my drive to fat 32 but can’t put 7.5GB files on it because it only accepts a max of 4 gb. how do i have to do it?

  43. Jason says:

    guys with storage issues.

    this is the main problem with FAT32, due to cluster sizes you lose a considerable amount of space.

  44. Josh says:

    Anybody who has problems on vista, make sure that it is the latest version.

  45. JC says:

    Im having the same problem as Prasheel. My 2.5 WD 250g is partitioned into 2 drives but my PS3 can’t see the second drive. Can the PS3 read both or will it need to be one single drive. If so, will it read the entire drive or will it only recognise some of it as in Steve’s case?

  46. Stephan says:

    Can I save game files on an external hdd ?
    Because my memory is full on my 40gb ps3 -_-‘ ..


  47. mlodyosiem says:

    i used Paragon Partition to format my 1TB Ext HDD and it works fine.
    i have 2 questions though.
    1. my ps3 can’t see any second level subfolders i.e Video/Series/ only files visible. is that normal? will i have to move all my movies 1 folder up for ps3 to see it?
    2. if i’m copying for instance movies >4gb do my ps3 with the ext hdd conected and folders Picture, Video etc created will the info go the ext hdd or ps3 itself?

  48. dan says:

    dont think it ever shows as 1TB, not definite on this though, think it will only show up to a certain size, theres more space on there than that though. Format with partition magic on vista.

  49. Becky says:

    If you are trying to format a large external HDD like 1TB, do not use Swissknife as it will only format 429GB which is just a waste. Use FAT32formatter, its so much easier to use and it will do the entire Harddrive, it may take a couple of hours to do the full format (not quick format) but it does it all, unlike the piece of crap that is Swissknife.

  50. Bill says:

    So I have an external with 25 GB of space left and I needed to back up my precious again. It wouldn’t let me so I figured no big, i’ll delete my old backup for it that took up 40 gigs. I delete it and it says to big for the recycle bin, do you want to permently delete it.
    I say yes and then when its done it says my external has 65 or so gig now.

    Plug it back into precious and it says NOPE you only have 25 gig. I went into my external again and looked for hidden files in case it didn’t completely delete the file and couldn’t find anything. Went to my system tools and it said I had quite a bit of crap in my recycle bin for it so I deleted it. Then I proceeded to delete another 20 gigs of music I didn’t need anymore and plugged it back into the precious. NO SIR, NOT HAPPENING, you only have 25 gig of available space.

    My external says it has roughly 85 gigs of free space and my ps3 is only a 60 gig HD but it refuses to see that I have more then 25 gig available on it and will not BU now and i’ve done it twice before with this HD.

    Next I totally wiped my HD and did a format on it again in FAT32 and now my ps3 will not even see it.

    Any help anybody?

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